A Wisconsin child care advocate says public funding called for by Governor Tony Evers is essential. The Democratic governor included funding for child care providers as part of a special session bill he wants the Wisconsin Legislature to consider next month,
Ruth Schmidt is executive director of Wisconsin Early Childhood Association. “The governor is proposing this major $340 million investment into continuing funding for Child Care Counts, that was part of his budget. We did a ton of advocacy on that. It is unfortunate that childcare has become a little bit of a political hot potato in Wisconsin, because we just don’t have time for that.”
Schmidt said many child care providers will be forced to raise rates for families or even close if more funding isn’t available. “Working families with young children, they have their backs up against the wall in really big ways right now, and it’s gonna get worse before it gets better.”
Speaker Robin Vos quickly rejected Evers’ plan and the larger workforce development bill and said Assembly Republicans plan to take up a tax cut instead. In a statement, Vos called the governor’s proposal “Another 12-month patch to match what they just lost through the federal stimulus plan. It is unsustainable and does nothing to address the long-term problem faced by the childcare industry.”
State Senator Cory Tomczyk (R-Mosinee) said the money Evers is requesting is unreasonable. “Republicans are making sure that we’re not being trapped into spending money that the federal government has pulled away from us,” Tomczyk told WSAU in an interview. “This is a program where the federal government gave us money to do this stuff, and to pay people to make sure that there’s daycare during the pandemic. And now the Feds are not paying the money. And now they expect us to continue paying money at that level.”
Tomczyk was referring to the federally funding directed to Child Care Counts, which will expire early next year. Schmidt said that will put further stress on families and providers.
With the special legislative session to address the need already rejected, at least one local government is reallocating some ARPA funds towards child care providers.
Rock County Board Supervisor Bill Wilson stressed there’s still much work to be done. “This is not a solution to childcare, but we have a childcare crisis and we’ve already kicked the can down the road previously on this issue. The crisis only gets worse as time passes.”
The county board last week approved moving ARPA funding from Small Business and Nonprofit Grant Programs to Childcare Grant Programs. The grants will be tied to how many kids individual child care centers are serving. “This is a short term help for childcare providers,” Wilson said “I would point out that many of these childcare providers are small businesses.”
Schmidt, with the Early Childhood Association, argued that public funding for child care should not be a partisan issue. “Republicans consume childcare, Democrats consume childcare and completely apolitical people do and and we just need funding for it.”
WSAU and WCLO contributed to this report